West Linn’s First City Halls

Willamette Falls Railway Depot, circa 1900. Courtesy Clackamas County Historical Society
By John KlattDecember 2014

In 1913, area voters approved a resolution incorporating the City of West Linn. For their first meeting, the new City Council chose the Willamette Falls Railway Depot, located at the west end of the Oregon City Suspension Bridge.

The electric railway, which ran between the Tualatin River and Walling, near Lake Oswego, had recently been purchased by the Portland, Eastern & Eugene Railroad, and now had some extra office space.

Within six weeks the City Council was looking for a site to construct a more permanent City Hall.

It would be twenty-three years before that dream was realized. On October 12, 1936, the new City Hall building was dedicated. This is the building most of us know as "the old police station", which is currently sitting vacant near the end of the Arch Bridge.

A reading of City Council minutes from 1913 through 1936 reveals a number of false starts on locating property and building a city hall. In the 1920s, money was set aside each year to finance it, but this money was appropriated for more pressing needs when the Great Depression changed national and local priorities.

In the meantime, West Linn's city offices continued to occupy half of the depot building, paying rent of ten dollars a month. A 1925 insurance map identifies the left side as "West Linn City Hall", and shows the Post Office located in the right half, inside the passenger waiting room.

In a way, it was the Depression and FDR's New Deal that allowed West Linn to finally build its own city hall. That, and the fact that the trolley had closed. The depot was now owned by Southern Pacific, and the railroad had little motivation to maintain a partially occupied older wooden building.

The new City Hall project was also part of the legacy of Mayor Frank Hammerle, West Linn's longest serving mayor (from 1925 through 1940). Hammerle had also been a City Councilor, Police Chief, and coach of the Bolton baseball team. His status in the community was evidenced in 1935 when Hammerle Park was named in his honor while he was still in office.

Planning and construction of City Hall were funded as "Public Works Administration Oregon Project 1045 R". Part of The New Deal, the P.W.A. was created by the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, and built large projects such as dams, bridges, hospitals and schools. The West Linn City Hall project received a 45% grant and a 55% federal loan.

In 1935, voters approved a bond issue to help pay off that loan and to allow construction to begin. The total cost of the project was about $20,000. During the same election, voters approved a bond issue for the Willamette Reservoir, and defeated a bond issue for a municipal swimming pool.

City Hall was designed by the well-known Portland firm of Claussen and Claussen, who today have five of their projects on the National Register of Historic Places. The contractor was Harry S. Green. The location was a few feet from the trolley depot, which was taken down after the move.

West Linn City Hall, located at the north end of the Arch Bridge shortly after completion, circa 1936. (Courtesy Old Oregon Photos)

The building was an interesting early version of mixed use planning. City Hall functions occurred on the second floor, while the first floor housed both the West Linn Post Office and a grocery store and meat market. The police station would arrive later.

Construction took about six months, and the building was finished in July, 1936. After dedication ceremonies in October, the City Council thanked Mayor Hammerle, B. F. Irvine, J. L. Franzen, Dr. L. L. Pickens, and Glenn R. Jack, as well as the Oswego - West Linn High School Band for their participation in the festivities.